The Franciscan Friars of the Atonement have cause for celebration: four men taking their next step in formation and several more beginning the formal discernment process.

There is one newly-professed Brother, Paolo, and three new Novices: Ugo, Gregorio, and Giovanni. All four men are Italian and currently located at the Centre Pro Unione in Rome, Italy, where Fr. James Puglisi, SA, is the Director. When asked about their initial interest in the Atonement Friars, Fr. Puglisi said “All were attracted mainly because of our Franciscan nature and our ecumenical commitment.”

The stories of how each found the Atonement Friars also demonstrate the changing times: religious communities need to have both personal outreach and an online presence. Three of the men found the Atonement Friars while browsing online and locating their website. The fourth was doing some research on religious communities and met one of the Sisters of the Atonement. It was that personal contact that allowed him to begin pondering religious life as a Franciscan himself.

Vocational discernment typically begins with a residential candidacy program lasting about nine months, although the time frame can vary. The interested candidate, sometimes called an Aspirant, will gather documentation about his life, baptism, and physical exams – similar to applying for a graduate or professional program. They also take religious classes to ensure that they fully understand the Catholic faith. Following a psychological evaluation, they submit their documentation to the Board of Admissions with a recommendation from Fr. Puglisi. After all of this, they would enter Postulancy, which is more of a formal phase of discernment.

Daily life includes morning prayers, Mass, serving in various ministries and completing administrative duties for local churches, as well as Scripture study and fellowship with other Friars. Prayer has a central focus during a time of discernment, but there is also an understanding that discernment cannot be rushed: time to sit, ponder, serve, and simply be together is necessary for one to consider all factors of religious life.

To many Christians from various backgrounds, religious life (and the process of entering such) might seem hard to understand and a difficult, if not burdensome, lifestyle. But Fr. Puglisi points to the deep sense of brotherhood among the Friars as one of the best parts of his life. When asked what he loved about being a Friar he said, “Being in community. Knowing that I have a group of men who share the same vision, who are different in many ways and whom don’t always see eye to eye, but we are together – struggling together and working together. To me, that’s an exhilarating part of being a Friar.”

On September 14, 2017, Ugo, Gregorio, and Giovanni moved from Postulancy into the Novitiate. On September 15, 2017, Paolo took simple vows and will continue a life of prayer and service with the Friars. Several additional men will be entering formal discernment with the Friars in the last few months of 2017. The Atonement Friars encourage all to pray for these men as they take these next steps toward following the call of Christ.